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  • Reservations Recommended

    Restaurant Review ~ Convivial / 801 O St., NW

    Being convivial at Convivial. DC foodies who eat out around town surely know the name of this chef, Cedric Maupillier. A native Frenchman who has become a naturalized American (he still retains his French passport), Maupillier moved to the metro area about 15 years ago. Already an experienced and trained chef, he wanted to expand his culinary knowledge, especially in English speaking countries.

    Good fortune came his way, and Fabio Trabbochi when at Maestro restaurant in Virginia hired him. That changed Maupillier’s culinary life, opening up his skills to a very different cooking focus and adding a bit of American flavors to his French dishes.

    After working at Maestro, Michel Richard Central, and Mintwood in Adams Morgan, Maupillier struck out on his own with this sparkling Shaw neighborhood restaurant, Convivial. As chef has explained, the word “convivial” really means “fond of feasting, eating, and good company.” And that about wraps up the experience at this corner restaurant at 8th and O Streets, even if you are dining or brunching solo. Windows in the dining room (Convivial has two dining room sections) open up patrons to the outside world, while those seated at the inner bar can relax over drinks.

    To launch your weekend activities, aim for an early Saturday brunch, starting at 10:30. Chances are that Convivial fills up fast, so you may consider reservations. And once seated, start off your day with one of the happy-making cocktails such as a carafe of mimosas, a bit heady for solo dining. Or even for steady thinking for the day’s activities. But you can order less intoxicating beverages, including Irish coffee (yes, with Irish whiskey) or a nonalcoholic drink called “Bambi” with lime, ginger, and soda.

    And then, to the eats. The absolute must kick-off is the immense and yummy cinnamon bun. That, plus a cup of coffee (and their cocktail) could really suffice. But then you would miss so many other choices!

    Appetizers include smoked salmon, beef tartare, or leeks Dijonnaise, but why not order a second cinnamon bun. Next up: several types of burger, a fried chicken sandwich, a whitefish salad, or a wedge of quiche Lorraine with a portion of green salad. But if you have an eye on a more replete meal, move down to the entrée section.

    A variety of temptations stare back at you, but if you are an all-American eats fan, dig into the chef’s awesome fried chicken and waffle choice — a very crunchy chunk of boneless chicken sits atop a half waffle accompanied by sausage gravy and a sunny-side up egg. Add a side of bacon and grilled multigrain bread or brioche toast, and you’ve just dived into food heaven!

    Convivial / Dinner: Sun. & Mon. 5pm-9pm, Tue.-Fri. to 10pm., Sat. to 10:30pm; Brunch: Sat. & Sun. 10:30am-2:30pm. (202) 525-2870.

    Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, editor, and restaurant reviewer. She has authored books on Asian and Mexican cuisines published by Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, and Macmillan. Other credits include restaurant reviews and food articles for national and regional publications, as well as former editor of the Vegetarian Times and former food editor/writer for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Click here to visit her website.